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ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – Aug. 20 - 26, 2017

Below is a review of the posts (on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) from the past week.  You can check out the full posts by clicking on the links.

In the post on Sunday 8/20/17 we saw a former supervisor sued Chobani, claiming age discrimination. Hah, it's not so smooth now. Jerry was a former sleeving and maintenance supervisor. His suit claims he was not given training that younger employees were given, did not let him take off weekends even though younger employees were allowed to, and took other actions (in the post) that were not the same with younger employees. The suit also says Chobani did not follow its own policy. Stay tuned for more.

TAKEAWAY: You can certainly discipline and discharge employees if warranted – just make sure the adverse action is legal and that you evenly enforce your policies.

The post on Monday 8/21/17 noted the "Mark of the Beast" case settled for $600,000: are you paying attention (or just paying)? Remember the background? The employer wanted employees to use infrared hand scanners for time clocks; one employee objected on the basis of his honestly-held religious beliefs – that the scanner was the Mark of the Beast (the post explains how). He asked for an accommodation and the employer refused. He retired and sued (after learning of comparators being treated differently).

TAKEAWAY: Remember your obligation to at least try to accommodate religious beliefs honestly held by employees. It can be more costly not to do so (as this employer discovered).

In the post on Tuesday 8/22/17 we were reminded there is no need to over-indulge a chronic complainer. But safest is to check with your employment lawyer. Yes, every workplace has that one person who complains about everything. You should see if there is any substance to the complaints, but you don't have to act if there is not. The post gives an example of how this played out.

TAKEAWAY: Investigate all complaints and act on those that have merit; otherwise, continue to treat the complaining employee just like everyone else.  

The post on Wednesday 8/23/17 told us DOL will begin issuing wage and hour opinion letters again. Employers themselves can ask for guidance from the Department – or have their employment law attorney do it for them. The post explains how an opinion letter can be useful both to the company asking the question and to others.

TAKEAWAY: Don't be afraid to ask for guidance – that's often better than stepping on a mine and having to pay for the damage later.

In the post on Thursday 8/24/17 we were told how to fire a workplace friend. It's never easy but sometimes necessary. The post lists 5 steps to take. First, make sure you've done everything you should, including following the disciplinary policy to the letter. The other steps are in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Working with friends can sometimes be difficult, and even more so when you have to end the employment relationship; keep it professional and follow the policy.

The post on Friday 8/25/17 said being untruthful about the reason for termination can hurt you. In Pennsylvania, where most employees are at-will, no reason is required for the employer to end the relationship. However, often one is given. When that happens, make sure it is true (and legal!). In the case in the post, the employee sued for age discrimination after being fired. The facts would ordinarily not have been in his favor; however, since the employer gave differing reasons for the termination, the judge let the case go to a jury. Ugh.

TAKEAWAY: Truth is always the best way to proceed – it keeps you from having to keep track of other things and, hopefully, keeps you doing what is legal.

Finally, in the post yesterday 8/26/17 we noted the court vacated summary judgment in an ADEA failure to hire case, finding a triable issue of pretext. So what does that long sentence mean? When an employer has a ranking system and does not follow it, and older employees (as defined by the ADEA) are harmed, the employer will have to answer for its actions in court (and not be dismissed from the suit). This ruling is binding on courts in PA, so make sure you read the post and act accordingly.

TAKEAWAY: If you have a policy or rule or some other guideline you put out there for all to follow, then you better follow it yourself or you might be liable for any violation or deviation in a court of law.

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